There is nothing more personal that the truth, and to present the truth of stage is an invariably brave act. The stage after all has for many years been an arena of lies and performance. This is the challenge when presenting works of autobiographical theatre.
The performance was at its strongest when it was at its truest, when she was speaking to the audience from her heart not from a script.
Julie Cafmeyer presents a Bombastic Declaration of Love to the men she has loved throughout her life. The feel of the performance is genuine, we see real photographs, texts and even recordings. The men are all given their real names – a lover deserves their name – as she puts it. She talks to the audience on an intimate and friendly biases, attempting to create genuine connections.
To try and form this connection with the audience Julie regularly asks various audience members questions about the stories she is telling, however this could have gone further as the questioning rarely got more engaging than “do you relate to this?” She did succeed in opening a dialogue with the audience but it was far from an intimate affair. What this questioning did do though was encourage instant reflection on the work and how it applies to your own life rather than simply engaging with theatre as a passive event which is so often can be.
A particularly interesting concept Julie brought to the production was the classic idea of life imitating art – even more poignant when the art you are producing is literally about your life. She did this through regular references to other artists and how their work had inspired both her life and practice. Although this was very interesting, drawing comparisons with greats like Abramovich did not do her any favours, instead it permitted the audience to consider what this performance could have been but ultimately was not. In particular, speaking about the late Spalding Gray’s legendary series of autobiographical monologues whilst sitting at a similar desk delivering a slightly underwhelming autobiographical monologue perhaps isn’t the best idea.
The performance was at its strongest when it was at its truest, when she was speaking to the audience from her heart not from a script. In these moments it become personal and engaging, and that is the sense that you are left with as you leave the space. Autobiographical theatre is hard to pull off. Julie Cafmeyer’s attempt to make it an accessible and interactive form of storytelling art is commendable but doesn’t quite achieve its goals.